Livestock farmers help assess input cost impacts

25 January 2023

A close up picture of two brown cows looking at the camera with theit tongues out.

We've asked beef and sheep farmers to tell us their production plans for the next couple of years. From higher feed prices to grocery inflation, the results show cutbacks across the sector.

In September, 2022 over a four-week period the NFU livestock team surveyed beef and sheep members on their production intentions for the next 12 months, compared to the previous 12 months.

We asked for this information to assess the ongoing impact the war in Ukraine and input cost inflation is having on livestock businesses, and what is driving any potential changes to your plans.

Response rate

In total, we received 1011 responses to the survey. 815 beef producers and 700 sheep producers responded (some respondents had both enterprises).

The responses to the survey detailed:

  • producers' intentions on livestock numbers
  • members' concerns
  • areas of opportunity over the next 12 months
  • intensions around investment on farm

The biggest challenges facing livestock farmers

Our survey showed that 40% of cattle keepers, and 37% of sheep keepers, suggested they would be reducing numbers in the next 12 months. 

Input costs were the main reason for reducing beef and sheep numbers.

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“Maintaining confidence is critical for the red meat sector. Government support is vital to give farmers the confidence to continue making these businesses productivity investments.”

NFU Livestock Board chair Richard Findlay

Responses from uplands farmers reflected productivity challenges and greater reliance on policy support for those farming in this area.

BPS phase out and the introduction of ELMs are areas of concern for livestock farmers.

Feed prices were a concern for 85% of respondents.

John Royle

Listen to NFU chief livestock adviser John Royle on a Farmers Weekly podcast discussing the reasons why livestock farmers are cutting back on numbers. Listen from 5 minutes 25 seconds. 

The data collected suggests that days to slaughter for both beef and lamb will increase.

The cost of living has resulted in a lower demand for beef and lamb.

Download the full results of the survey: NFU livestock intentions survey 2022 – NFU briefing

Government must give livestock farmers confidence to make investments

NFU livestock board chair Richard Findlay said: “This survey clearly shows that livestock farmers are concerned for the future as their costs of production, especially fertiliser, fuel and feed costs, continue to soar.

“Maintaining confidence is critical for the red meat sector. Without it we’ll see farmers put infrastructure and technology investment plans on hold – plans which would help increase business resilience and aid the sector in working towards its net zero ambition through improving productivity and resource use efficiency.

“Government support is vital to give farmers the confidence to continue making these businesses productivity investments, and especially when it comes to projects such as renewable energy production and manure management.”

Next steps

We will be using the survey results as a guide and as evidence in future discussions with government and industry to help support British Farmers through this difficult period.

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